Did Catherine of Aragon Die in England or Spain?

Posted By on July 1, 2011

Katherine of AragonThank you so much to author Susan Higginbotham for mentioning an interesting blog post on the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s claim, in their “Passages” Bible exhibit, that Henry VIII sent Catherine of Aragon back to Spain and she died there.

Linda, from The Medieval Chronicle Blog, said that she contacted the museum to tell them that the information they were giving visitors was inaccurate, as Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle and was buried at Peterborough Abbey, and the Retail Manager emailed her back, saying “I followed up with our scholars today and they informed me that Catherine of Aragon returned to Spain and died there.  They also informed me that this issue is an issue of scholarly debate and we have chosen this interpretation for the exhibit.” Hmmm, so why is she buried in Peterborough then?

I have researched the lives of Henry VIII and his six wives intensively and have read many, many primary and secondary sources and I cannot understand the museum’s stand on this issue or where they are getting this information from. All of the historians and experts on Catherine of Aragon I know agree that Catherine died in England. I checked the various chronicles and Holinshed says Kimbolton, Francis Bacon doesn’t mention a place but surely would have said Spain if she had died there, Hall says Kimbolton, Wriothesley says “Bugden in Huntingdon shire”, which is the area where Kimbolton Castle was, and even The Spanish Chronicle says that Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle and describes Chapuys’s visit to her there.

Where on earth has this idea that she died in Spain come from? Anyone know?


39 thoughts on “Did Catherine of Aragon Die in England or Spain?”

  1. Ralphine says:

    Oh good grief! As if Katherine who stubbornly held out til the end as Queen of England and Henry’s wife would EVER leave England! As if Henry would allow her to return to Spain and gather an army. I know history is left up to interpretation but this is just plain ridiculous! It’s things like this as well as our wanna- be Presidents
    spouting off that Paul Revere warned the British and the Founding Fathers worked to end slavery. Didn’t mean to get political there but this is how facts get distorted and it just burns me.

    1. GIllyo says:

      Actually, Ralphine, both of the statements you quoted from wanna-be Presidents were factually accurate if you know your US History. Unfortunately, ignorance about American history is a huge problem due to the low quality of instruction in our public schools and the total lack of context in relation to historical facts.

      A case in point; my son’s 7th grade history text book stated that Henry VIII never had a son. The fact that he had two, (at least), is so easy to confirm that it’s unbelievable that not one person who reviewed the book didn’t know that fact.

      The US history textbooks are even worse; they leave the impression that the whole nation was founded by minority women, and leave out the most important parts of history, the context in which events occurred. It is easy for us today, for instance, to see the 3/5ths clause in the constitution as a defense of slavery when its’ intention was completely different. The fear the founding fathers had is that if representation was based on population and the slaves were counted individually but were unable to vote, that the Southern slave states would have too much power in the Congress and it would be impossible for them to ever end slavery. The 3/5ths was a compromise.

      The situation in Oklahoma is that some elites who think they know better than the average well educated person believe their “sources” over well established fact. Who knows, maybe they actually read their 7th grade textbooks!

  2. Sharon says:

    I made a comment on FB and I’ll repeat it here. You have to understand, this came from Oklahoma. They believe man rode dinasours!
    What an insult to anyone who knows anything about the Tudors, and what an insult to people who want to learn about them. Who are their scholars? I find it difficult to believe that a real scholar would say this.
    Wow, I can’t tell you how angry this makes me.

    1. jana says:

      Please do not insult all of Oklahoma. I for one, do not believe that men rode dinosaurs or that Catherine of Aragon died in Spain. Thank you.

    2. Now let’s not get insulting. Just because someone is in Oklahoma does not mean they are stupid or uneducated. These are professionals working in an intellectual field. It is not helpgul to cast aspersions on the whole population. That is definitely not constructive.

      They are however dead wrong about this.. and I just wrote to curatorial@okcmoa.com to ask what source they used for this supposed controversy.


      1. Claire says:

        Well done and thanks for sharing their email address, things like this need to be challenged.

        I don’t think Sharon meant her comment as it has been taken. She was referring to the museum display of men riding dinosaurs and was joking. Obviously her joke has caused offence but I know it was not meant that way and she has apologised. I’m so sorry that people have been offended and hurt.

  3. Susan Higginbotham says:

    It’s bizarre, isn’t it? Aside from the sources you mentioned, Chapuys himself gives extensive details in his dispatches about Catherine’s death and plans for her burial. I can’t imagine where the museum’s source got his or her information from.

    1. Claire says:

      Exactly, Chapuys would definitely have mentioned it. I even did a Google search to see if anyone else was claiming this and couldn’t find anything on Google apart from a website on Sweet Potatoes which said “Henry VIII tried to grow them, after he sent Catherine back to Spain, but couldn’t–they withered on the vine in the cool English summers.” !!!

      1. Mari says:

        …sounds like an April Fool’s joke – sweet potatoes on a vine?????? correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t they tubers and don’t they grow underground? 🙂

  4. Heather says:

    I hardly think it’s necessary to insult the entire population of Oklahoma.

  5. Christine says:

    This reminds me of “Jesus died in India” (well, at least that’s from the Quoran, not a bad source … ). Does she also have a grave in Spain (I mean Columbus has several, hasn’t he?)

    1. Julie says:

      As someone from Oklahoma this deeply bothers me. I love the tudors and I love all of Claire’s articles and believe I’ve read almost every one. I usually don’t comment but I hate to see anyone misrepresenting history, especially a museum that is located in my home state. However, I also find it offensive and completely unnecessary for people to insult the entire population of Oklahoma. I have never met a person here who believes that men rode on dinosaurs. Please, direct your comments at the museum who IS wrong and not at the citizens of Oklahoma.

    2. Banditqueen says:

      The story of Jesus and India is not in the Koran, so please stop being ignorant. It is actually in more than one none Biblical source.

      It is in the Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Saint Thomas and the Jesus Sutras which are Taoist Christian Gospels, not Muslim and please don’t insult people in America, just because one Museum makes a fake claim, people.

  6. Leigh Ann says:

    @Sharon – As an Oklahoman I find your comment offensive and more than a little uncalled for. Contrary to your perception we are not a population of ignorant, uneducated rednecks. The over the top views of a small group of residents does not represent the attitudes of the populace as a whole.

    I noted the discrepant information re: Catherine’s last days when I attended the exhibit and provided the same feedback as Linda. I was disappointed to see such flawed history presented as fact and am even more disappointed in the response the museum provided to Linda. To have such a beautiful exhibit marred by so large an error is a shame.

    1. Sharon says:

      That’s good to know. I didn’t mean to insult the entire population. I do not hold the perception that you are a bunch of ignorant, uneducated rednecks. I’m very sorry if I insulted you.
      It doesn’t, however, change my opinion of a museum that claims a lie, and then refuses to correct the lie.

      1. Dawn says:

        Your comment should have been taken with the humour that was intended. For goodness sake do we not hear , tell and laugh at jokes that aren’t P.C. as long as they are not aggressive, so what! Living in U.K. The scots are tight, the Irish thick etc etc we all know that its not true, and before you all start telling me off, I am a mother of 2 young adults with severe learning difficulties, so I know all about bigotry, but I can still laugh at stuff thats maybe you shouldn’t. Lighten up, I came on this sight to chat among people with a commom interest as me, to get away from the daily grind, and off the cuff remarks like yours Sharon are meant to be humorous. There is no way would I think that all folk from Okalhoma have 6 fingers on each hand and so on, unlke the village next to mine, they have 8!!! JOKE. Are any of us innocent of a jest Sharon made, I doubt it…. lets get back to history……………:)

        1. Jenny says:

          Thank you, Miss Dawn! I whole-heartedly agree with your above statement. SOOOOOOO now back to our daily Tudor history lesson 🙂 P.S. Is there a link about this so that we can bombard them about their inability to use fact or at the very least their brains? I would love to be able to read exactly what it was they were writing.

  7. Robert Parry says:

    Big journey, in those days, for a sick lady to make it back to Spain from England – rough sea crossing through Biscay. Rather unlikely.

  8. Claire says:

    I agree that this museum’s mistake and refusal to correct it has nothing to do with the fact that it is in Oklahoma. Can we get back on with discussing Catherine of Aragon now please 🙂

  9. Louise says:

    Perhaps the museum’s experts could provide a list of souces for this information as noone else seems to be able to find them?

  10. Nancy says:

    Sorry to keep it going, but I know how the people from Oklahoma felt about the comment (whether Sharon meant it as they took it or not). I’m from New Jersey, and I’m offended when people seem to assume that all New Jerseyans talk and act like the cast of Jersey Shore. My alma mater, Rutgers University, actually paid Snookie $32,000 to give a speech to Rutgers students in which she told them to study hard but to party harder. (They only paid Toni Morrison $30,000 to speak at a commencement – go figure!). But now I’m REALLY getting off the topic!

    1. Ralphine says:

      OK~ hey that’s funny. NO? OK? Oklahoma?? Anyway…. let’s not go through all 50 states. Leave it with the fact that the US as a whole has a lot of dingbat issues and every state has much to be proud of as well as embarrassed about. It’s like one big dysfunctional family.
      Let’s look at the dialougue that is being generated about this insane idea of K of A returning to Spain. The museum has stated their case and anyone investigating the subject wil be met with several opinions on the truth and where to find it.
      Well done people!!!!!

  11. Susan Higginbotham says:

    Back to Catherine (and it should noted that it was a resident of Oklahoma who caught the error in the first place), as I mentioned on Facebook, I wonder if the source was confused by the fact that the Emperor Charles held a funeral servuce for Catherine in Naples, then under Spanish control. Perhaps the source mistakenly thought that since there was a funeral in Naples, there had to be a body there as well:

    Calendar of State Papers, Spanish:

    “The very same day that the funeral of our aunt, the queen of England, was celebrated here, We being in our cabinet, preparing to go to church and attend the funeral service, accompanied by the foreign ambassadors and other principal persons who were waiting for Us in an adjoining room, the ambassador of His most Serene Highness the king of Portugal entered our cabinet. As the English ambassador, who had been invited to the ceremony, had excused himself, We acquainted the former with the occurrence, telling him that since the English one would not attend the service, he himself might go if he pleased. Our object in saying this was to avoid any question of precedence between the two ambassadors. The Portuguese readily assented, and promised to go away before the funeral ceremony began; but just when he was on the point of departure We were informed that the English ambassador had suddenly changed his mind, and was outside with the rest of the ambassadors ready to go with Us to church. Aware of this, We sent word to the Portuguese ambassador, that although his master’s relationship to the deceased Queen necessitated his presence on the spot, yet We thought that in order to avoid complications it was better that he should not attend the obsequies; and therefore he did not go. Should you consider it necessary or be called upon to explain to the king of Portugal the above circumstances, you will do so in conformity with the above account, which is the exact truth, and you may at the same time, if need be, add that the Portuguese ambassador has on this occasion, as well as on others, behaved in a very devoted and discreet manner.—Naples, 18 Feb. 1536.”

  12. Julie says:

    I would love to know where the museum is getting their sources and who their “scholars” are! Susan might be on to something with her comment that Charles gave Catherine a funeral in Naples. I had no idea this was a “scholarly debate” but I’m intrigued to find out where the museum got the belief that Queen Katherine died in Spain. They have certainly sparked some debates here! If Henry sent her to Spain as they claimed then why is she buried in Peterborough? Do they also claim Henry had her body sent back to England after banishing her to Spain as they have claimed? It makes no sense to me!

    1. Julie says:

      I just realized I spelled Katherine’s name two different ways in my comment, oops!

  13. Esther Sorkin says:

    Susan made a good point. It also occurred to me that Mary nearly escaped to Spain (although it was during Edward’s reign); someone might have misread or confused this possibility with Catherine, combined it with the funeral service and reached a faulty conclusion. At least the museum should identify the supposed “scholars” who claim that there is a “debate” over the issue. Is there anything that can be done (short of asking politicians to cut the museum’s funding … which I think would be an unnecessarily excessive punishment).

  14. Why not write to the appropriate person and ask where the heck they ggot this information?


    Ask for the source about the so called “controversy”.

    Nan Hawthorne

    1. Claire says:

      Linda did ask them and they declined to share their sources! If a museum states something as fact then they really should be prepared to back it up.

      1. Anyanka says:


        I hope they have a peer-reviewed report by responsible historians..

  15. lisaannejane says:

    If you will not say where your information came from, that is a red flag to me that something is not right. There is nothing to be gained from keeping information a secret about a woman who died a long time ago. You can only alert others that this museum is not accurately portraying history, perhaps in a local paper, and name your sources.

  16. TinaII2None says:

    I thought perhaps I was dreaming as I just woke up after working overtime this morning…and I had to read Claire’s headline three times before I realized that what I’d seen the first time was true. I’m kind of late in the game right now, so this is just venting on my part.

    Good grief! I’ve been reading about the Tudors since I was a child, and no where, in any of that long line of opinions, discussions, arguments, etc. have I ever read such a distortion of Tudor history. And Claire answered what I was about to ask — where are these “scholars”? Who are these scholars and why is the museum afraid (or reluctant) to tell us who they are or give us their credentals?

    I’ve heard many things debated about this period: from whether Catherine was a virgin or not when Henry married her to whether to Anne Boleyn’s guilt or innocence, but Catherine’s location of death has never been disputed.I think Susan gave a great explanation as to how the misunderstanding may have arisen, and I liked Esther’s response as well. With all the Catherines and Marys, etc. around, perhaps this individual did combine accurate sources and come up with a false premise which may make them a lousy historian but not necessarily someone out to stir things up. The museum in any case — if it wishes to maintain some credibility — should not be afraid to give us this information.

    This reminds me of an old gentleman who was regaling his 2 male friends with his version of Tudor history while I followed behind them on a tour at Leeds Castle. I figure he missed a week of school because by the time he was done, Henry had executed all of his wives for one reason or the other. I was about to explode wanting to tell him how wrong he was, but realized he would have given this American one look and told me, well, whatever LOL But I did turn around and tell a mother and daughter behind me “He’s got that ALL WRONG!” The woman said “I didn’t think that sounded right,” then advised her young daughter to ignore what the man was saying! LOL Perhaps that old gent is the source of the museum’s information…..Vent over.

  17. Dawn says:

    OMG. This has got to be a joke, surely. Of all the changes made to historical events in the past by so called scholars, this has got to be the most ridiculous one I have ever read or heard about. Its laughable. I think they are going to have a hard time convincing the historians of the world on this one…..mind you it makes the indiscretions made in The Tudors more forgivable… ha ha

  18. Tudorrose says:

    Yes, the, that museum have got there wires crossed and have there information so wrong. I mean how? obviously someone has not been doing their research or it was just a simple error that has been made and it is errors such as these that has people being not only given but also memorizing the wrong information as a result. Shakes head.

    We all know that Katherine of Aragon died in England and at Kimbolton castle and was buried at Peterborough cathedral. Nowhere else. Katherine of Aragon liked to spell her name with a K even though her name can also be spelled with a C, just like Katheryn Howard and Katharine Parr. I personally think that it looks better with a K though to be perfectly honest rather than with a C.

  19. Jane says:


    I work at the Passages Exhibit and, while a majority of the information they have is valid, the fact that they say Catherine even went back to Spain drives me up. the. wall.

    As far as I’ve been able to research, Catherine never went back to Spain, much less “fled home to Aragon”

    I will say that Dr. Caroll, the curator and narrator for the exhibit is an incredibly intelligent and intellectual man, but his Ph.D’s are in biblical manuscripts, not English (or world) history.

  20. Melissa says:

    I hate to drag this out again, but Sharon DID NOT insult all of Oklahoma and I’m pretty sure the person replying to her deliberately tried to stir up controversy. Some of you are not from America, but from my experience when people say “elites” it is a code for “liberals,” to mean that only the educated “elitists” believe what is taught in school, since education is a “liberal” thing.

    The original intention of this poster was to insult educated people and I really don’t like that. Those outside of the States might miss the political rhetoric but it is definitely there and I don’t like the fact that everyone jumped on Sharon for responding to that and ignored the commenter who tried to turn this into an ant-“liberal” thing.

  21. Valerie says:

    Where has this come from? I have read a lot of books about the Tudors, and nowhere have I read that there is any kind of debate over where Katherine of Aragon died. None of the chroniclers mention it and Mary’s will states that she wanted Katherine’s body to be moved from Peterborough so that she could be buried beside her (which is pretty strong evidence that she wasn’t buried in Spain!) I get really annoyed with this kind of thing. There really is no excuse for bad history. Not only that, but there is no excuse for not presenting any evidence backing up your claims!
    I’m wondering if they are maybe getting their Katherines confused. There is a later Queen Catherine (Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II) who left England after Charles’s death, returned to Portugal and died there, although that doesn’t really explain it either.

  22. Annefan says:

    Well that’s given me the best laugh I’ve had in days! Rather begs the question why all the Catherines/Katherines in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and AMERICA joined in a public subsciption in 1891 to pay for the marble memorial over her grave in Peterborough Cathedral. There is a mistake on the slab in that she’s listed as being 49 years old, whereas she’d just turned 50 when she died. Then in 1986, there was a celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of her death. A ceremonial coffin was carried from Kimbolton, stopped off at Sawtry Abbey for the night before arriving in Peterborough Cathedral. There the Spanish ambassador presented a new royal standard featuring Catherine’s badge.

    Personally, I’d have thought that if she really had fled back to Spain the Spanish might have noticed…

    Without wishing to cast aspersions on the director of the museum, is it possible that he’s hiding behind ‘sources’ because he’s too proud to admit he’s made a mistake?

  23. Melly says:

    Might I recommend contacting the professor responsible for coordinating the Green Collection, Dr. Scott Carroll? His email is scott_carroll@baylor.edu. My understanding is that this exhibition was curated outside OKCMOA, thus bringing this discrepancy to the attention of Dr. Carroll is probably more likely to garner results.

  24. Linda Abel says:

    GREAT NEWS! Passages, a private exhibit, has agreed to change their information and state that Catherine of Aragon died and is buried in England based on all the facts I emailed them. One would think that I didn’t need to tell them this because all the facts are so easily accessible. But I disgress… You’re invited to visit my newsletter at http://www.TheMedievalChronicle.com, click on Let’s blog and read the very happy conclusion to my first journey into dealing with international exhibits. I would also like to add that the Oklahoma Museum of Art’s only involvement with the exhibit is that they lease space to Passages. It was the exhibit that was wrong and not wanting to change. The OKC Museum of Art worked with me and was very helpful. Thank you to all of you for your support. Linda Abel, Publisher of The Medieval Chronicle

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